Rabbi Lau references Seattle visit, tells President Obama “don’t be too late”
In one of the most emotionally powerful moments of President Obama’s historic visit to Israel, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former chief Rabbi of Israel and chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv addressed the US President at Yad Vashem, Israel’s National holocaust museum yesterday. Rabbi Lau, the youngest survivor of Buchenwald, thanked the American people for the liberation of the Nazi death camps. The Rabbi tied the upcoming Holiday of Passover to the Jewish experience in the holocaust. “This is the opportunity to thank you, to thank the American people, who came finally in 1945, April, to take us out not from slavery to freedom but from death to life.”
Rabbi Lau went on to share with President Obama an experience he had while visiting the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center in Seattle last year. He related how Leo Hymas, one of the US soldiers who liberated Buchenwald begged for Rabbi Lau’s forgiveness for coming too late to liberate the camps. Rabbi Lau, referencing the Iranian nuclear threat, turned to a rapt President Obama telling him “Mr. President you have promised us that we are not alone, don’t be too late”.
You can read the entire Transcript of Rabbi Lau’s remarks to the President below and you can watch it on the YouTube Video link, also below.
TRANSCRIPT OF RABBI ISRAEL MEIR LAU REMARKS TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, MARCH 22, 2013: I want to use this occasion, it is an opportunity for me to thank you. On April 11 1945 in the Concentration camp of Buchenwald that you visited, American troops broke in led by General Patton of the division of General Dwight Eisenhower, and liberated us. One of the Jewish leaders of the United States, Rabbi Herschel Schachter was [there]. He entered into the barracks and we were there, crying in Yiddish [he proclaimed] “Jews you are free!” We didn’t believe him. After six years of horror, such a tunnel, we never believed.
This is the opportunity to thank you, to thank the American people, who came finally in 1945, April, to take us out not from slavery to freedom but from death to life.
I want to add one sentence, two months ago we had a privilege to appear every year at the government’s meeting of the International commemorations day of the holocaust. And I told of a short episode from last year that I experienced in Seattle, the United States. I was in a very small Holocaust Museum, one room. At the front stood a brigadier General, an old man, very handsome, uniform with all the medals of the United States. He welcomed me with tears in his eyes. He knew that I am a Holocaust survivor a child from Buchenwald. He shook my hand and said “Rabbi, I was one of the liberators of Buchenwald, I served with General Patton. When I heard that you are coming to Seattle I asked for permission to meet with you. Before I give back my soul to the Lord of the universe, me Leo Hymas am asking from you forgiveness… for being late, we came too late. I saw what we have seen, I understand we were late, forgive me.” I told him, “67 years you have in your heart, in your consciousness this worry that you have to ask forgiveness, you must be a great man. “
Yesterday, Mr. President you have promised us that we are not alone… don’t be too late. Remember we need your support, we need your friendship, we appreciate your love to us, to the entire world. We, all together next week sitting at the night of the Seder, together from all over the countries of the globe. We are asking not only to praise the Lord Almighty for the past, of Exodus, but also we pray for the peace in Israel, in the Middle East and the entire world. And you will help us together have the great days of light after the dark tunnel.